Power With, Not Power Over: Building Community


Reading the section on Community Building in High Impact Instruction by Jim Knight.  Chapter 11 is entitled “Power With, Not Power Over”.

Power With involves authentic power we develop with students.  To do so, we must practice empathizing with, connecting with, and respecting students.  

Empathizing is an active engagement that  is a “willingness to become part of another’s experience, to share the feeling of the experience”.

“Empathy is the very means by which we create social life and advance civilization.”  Jeremy Rifkin

“Power with” our student begins with the simple desire to empathize with them, to deeply understand how they are experiencing our class and school, and how they think and feel about what is important in their lives.  ”  This is about being intentional about understanding.

Teachers can use empathy as a strategy for everything they do in class.  Some specific examples given by Knight include:

  1. see the class through individual students’ eyes as much as possible
  2. put photographs of all students on the wall where lesson design occurs to remind that the focus is on these children
  3. do a mental roll-call of all student’s faces before planning a lesson to consider the needs of each student
  4. consider how high, average, low and other learning students are doing in your class
  5. prompt students to do Martin Seligman’s Three Good Things Exercise
  6. use more formal methods:  interest surveys, strength surveys, writing prompts, anonymous feedback
  7. have a peer of yours interview students
  8. take a challenging class that will help you understand the experiences of students who are struggling (I recommend trying to knit socks!  )

Building effective relationships with students is a pivotal piece of their learning process.